On the Bottle
I noticed on P. 24 of the September 2019 issue of Military History (“Medusa’s Curse,” by Bob Gordon) that on the Canadians’ vehicle antennae there appear to be plastic bottles taped on upside down [see above]. Can you advise what is the purpose of this attachment?
Editor responds: Canadian units employ such antenna-mounted water bottles to hold infrared chemlights (glow sticks). When maintaining order after dark, a quick glance through night-vision goggles would quickly reveal the organization of the vehicles around you. Depending on the unit and the operating environment, the color and/or number of chemlights would represent the sub-unit.
For many years I have enjoyed your magazine, and I continue to subscribe and read through the many diverse topics. They are thorough and entertaining. One question: I traveled through Ukraine three times in the last three years and observed firsthand a country on a war footing, single-handedly holding back the threat of Russia and subsequent desire for empire and domination of Eastern Europe. Some 15,000 civilians and nearly 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed. I observed and attended a half-dozen military funerals during my visits.
I also learned that for all practical purposes the country was the actual “Russian front” during World War II, and the sheer numbers of civilian dead and soldiery were far in advance of many other countries. I have always heard “20 million killed” during World War II but did not realize the majority were Ukrainians.
Now, I read bits and pieces of battles and strategies here and there and catch a few YouTube videos, but this very dramatic standoff between these two countries and the implications of seeing the first major European war since World War II lends me to ask if this conflict is on your editorial radar.
Editor responds: The ongoing confrontation between Ukraine and Russia—and their respective proxies—could indeed spark a wider war in Europe. That said, our general rule of thumb is to cover conflicts that occurred 15 or more years ago, simply because anything more recent is more properly considered to be current events rather than military history.
Your November 2019 issue featured superb stories of lesser known military history. Never knew the details on the Breaker Morant case. Thought he was the hero depicted in the Australian movie until your revelation [“The Breaking of Harry Morant,” by Ron Soodalter].
A small correction to your article about airborne turrets [“Aim for the Sky,” by Jon Guttman]: The chin turret of the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress was not technically manned. It was controlled by the bombardier from a remote aiming and firing device mounted above his Norden bombsight position, with the turret guns themselves mounted below his deck floor position. This remote aiming system and associated firing device would later be employed by Boeing on all defensive turrets in the B-29 Superfortress.
Col. Wayne Long
U.S. Army (Ret.)
Regarding your World War I portfolio [“World War Relics,” November 2018]: I’ve dabbled in militaria and collecting since I was in the service. A couple of points I noticed: Under caption G the Springfield bayonet scabbard is missing the canvas cover with the leather tip, and under caption K the trench knives are not “custom.” The wooden-handled knife was found to be unsatisfactory. After just thousands of them were produced, the brass-handled (Mark I) trench knife was produced in numbers exceeding 100,000, mostly at Landers, Frary & Clark [in New Britain, Conn.]. A cruder version was produced at a French firm, Au Lion. While not “custom,” they were specific to the task of hand-to-hand combat. The brass-handled knife stayed in service in various forms through World War II.
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